Workplace transformation trends that will define 2020

By Andrew Davis, - Employee experienceFuture Workplace

As we enter a new, exciting and seemingly chaotic year, there’s every expectation that the wave of disruption we surfed on to get here will grow tsunami-sized this decade.

Today, competition is hotter than ever, regardless of sector. And market supremacy all boils down to who can provide the best customer experience.

So, as organizations scramble to provide ever more engaging services, they’re finally learning that the old adage is true – employees really are your most important asset.

An engaged and motivated workforce not only increases revenue by an average of 147%, it also leads to more internal innovation, making it a key priority for most business leaders.

But accomplishing this means old habits such as providing workers with out-of-date, locked-down devices or implementing burnout-inducing mentalities such as ‘always on’, can no longer continue.

Nor can claiming to champion collaboration, but in reality subjecting employees to bureaucratic and internally focused processes that offer limited choice.

The workplace is growing ever more complex and diverse, and multiple generations now need to work together despite differences in their expectations or skills. Hence, it’s up to leaders to transform their cultures to accommodate their various preferences.

Workplace transformation happens at the junction between culture and technology and is as unique to each organization as the individuals that comprise them.

So as we wade into the new decade, what workplace transformation trends can we expect in 2020?

The rise of the AI personal assistants

In our personal lives, we’ve become accustomed to a certain level of ease and choice. In 2020, that ability customize our environment will finally break into the workplace.

Organizations are going to start getting serious about digital workers and robotic assistants, exploring their capabilities and learning how and when they can be used in the workplace.

Today, this manifests as helpful hints, reminders, suggested replies in emails, and document editing tools. Over the next 12 months I see these technologies becoming more mainstream and their functionalities expanding rapidly as they grow smarter.

As such, workers from all generations will become more comfortable with the way they work. This will especially be the case for the enterprises that move to a citizen developer model, where workers can freely explore how they can automate repetitive tasks themselves.

In time, this technology will become more akin to personal assistants – helping organize diaries, book travel, schedule meetings and automatically reply to standard requests.

These changes will not only save employees time and energy to use on more interesting and creative tasks, but will allow each worker to drive the organization’s transformation.

This will inspire and enable workers to be at their best while also creating a conduit for innovative ideas to be scaled within the organization.

Dynamic collaboration

We can start to expect the ways we work with our colleagues on a day-to-day basis to evolve as workplaces attempt to become more agile and innovative.

This will translate into more dynamic, multi-discipline teams collaborating on projects as leaders strive to get the most out of their workers and keep up with the pace of change in order to stay aligned with their customers’ expectations.

So, communication tools are going to play an even more critical role, as freedom and flexibility start to extend beyond the traditional corporate boundaries.

This will also drive a greater focus on data security, as there will be increased need for organizations to become much more granular with how they secure and control access to their data.

Fear of the machine

Despite this greater embrace of technology in the workplace, I don’t think all innovations are going to shine this year.

Wearables, IoT and technologies such as facial recognition will struggle in the workplace, as fears of a ‘big brother’ working environment still exist. Primarily, concerns revolve around how these might be used to pry and invade people’s privacy.

And we’re already seeing reports of people not wanting to rely on AI for medical diagnosis, despite it being more accurate than human diagnosis.

These kinds of technologies indicate a new level in our relationship with technology, one that requires greater trust. So, it will require careful introduction and explanation if we’re to see them successfully adopted by workers.

Similarly, I think Robotic Process Automation (RPA) will continue to offer a lot of value, but it won’t be the silver-automation-bullet many businesses perceive it to be.

So, I predict we’ll see more organizations take a more holistic approach to automation leveraging APIs, workflow functionality, and micro apps to automate low-value tasks.

The more you know

Personally, I think one of the most imperative measures all business leaders need to prioritize in 2020 is better education around how AI works, along with the different types of AI and automation available.

Without a good understanding of what your business needs to do in order to drive value and how your workforce can contribute to it, how will you identify areas that need to improve?

This is where consulting can help – ensuring your technology adoption is firmly linked to the cultural changes you need in order to deliver your desired business outcomes. So, successful businesses will be able to map all their technology initiatives to their business goals.

But technology is only half the answer. Leaders also need to understand humans better and how to better adapt their workforces to the rapidly changing work environment.

This is why we consider ourselves a digital transformation company – the scope and capabilities of technology has grown past simply being an IT issue.

And as robotics and AI become more integral to success, it won’t be companies that simply adopt these technologies that will flourish, but those that have built a culture that embraces these new technologies.

This means driving new ways of working that enable them to adapt at pace while providing engaging, fulfilling and healthy environments for their workforce, rather than making them more stressful and complex.

Sign up to our Strategic Workplace Transformation webinar on February 12th for rich insights into achieving your strategic goals through workforce transformation.

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